When he’s home in Kansas, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts makes a point of expressing his fondness for long-time friends, and Thursday morning’s visit to First Kansas Bank in Great Bend was no exception. A larger-than-normal crowd gathered at the weekly coffee hour organized by the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce. Roberts, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, spoke about his optimism for a timely completion of the 2018 Farm Bill. He also took a few moments to remember a past Great Bend mayor, Robert Parrish, and to share an anecdote about Barton County Commissioner Homer Kruckenberg.
Roberts noted it was good to be back in Kansas where people ask questions about the Farm Bill and other issues affecting day to day lives, but he did comment on recent national events.
“I would just say this, and then we will leave this subject alone even though it is ever present on our minds. My dad always told me that when you are pointing the finger of blame, you are pointing three fingers at yourself. We are in the politics of identity where everything is segmented according to gender and race and age, etc. It really is a tough time. But the politics of disruption and the politics of blame — we all need to look in our hearts and really stop and think about what our country has been and what we want it to be and contribute to that if we possibly can respecting other people’s opinions and going forward.”
The Senate Ag Committee has held hearings to learn what is working and what is not in advance of working on the 2018 Farm Bill in September. Findings include the need to increase exports. Knowing that farmers really want predictability and stability, he promised to make every effort to get the 2018 Farm Bill done this October, despite the numerous other challenges including tax code reform and the debt ceiling, and possibly another vote on health care.
“Give us two days on the floor, and I think we can get it done,” he said, admitting he was being more specific than usual in regard to the Farm Bill. “If it doesn’t happen, we will do it in early 2018, again, because our farmers need that direction, that opportunity and that help.
He identified crop insurance as the number one issue farmers face in states visited so far, including Kansas, Michigan, Montana and Alabama. He expressed confidence the House will protect it, as will the Senate, and described the Agriculture Committee as the least partisan committee in Congress, crediting farmers and other rural constituents as the driving reason why.
On tax reform, he said business taxes should be lowered, seven brackets should be reduced to three, and really aim at the middle class for tax relief.
“We ought to fix the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax), we ought to fix the repatriation for all that money sitting overseas, and then we have the estate tax I’d just as soon get rid of,” he said. He did not feel more was necessary at this time. “Again, we need predictability and stability during this particular time.”
Homer and Elvis
Roberts then offered a tongue-in-cheek apology to Kruckenberg, who was in attendance, for neglecting to bring with him a gift he planned to re-gift the commissioner after many years of having it on display at his Topeka office. Years ago, he shared, Kruckenberg had given him a decanter in the shape of Elvis Presley, having learned of Roberts’ affinity for the singer. He promised to gift it back to him sometime in the near future.